HSBC needs balance and guile in Hong Kong and China
HSBC is stuck between several rocks and several more hard places.
It’s irresistible to join dots. It’s natural, and just a bit exhilarating, to see patterns, messages, truths.
Observers of HSBC are seeing a lot of dots and are pondering how many of them to connect. Among them: the ousting of John Flint as chief executive; the departure of Helen Wong as head of Greater China; HSBC’s supposed cooperation with the US Department of Justice in its investigation of Huawei; China’s retaliation on the US’s treatment of Huawei, and the forthcoming list of unreliable entities it intends to publish; protests all over Hong Kong; and Chinese pressure on iconic Hong Kong bodies, exemplified by the departure of Cathay Pacific CEO Rupert Hogg, who resigned after being ordered to name staff who took part in demonstrations.
So, how many of them ought we to connect? Not the first two, apparently; Flint was ditched by his own board for reasons they have made clear, whereas Wong has resigned to take up another opportunity in financial services, one she apparently hasn’t even told colleagues about.
The timing is unhelpful but apparently coincidental; Wong resigned before Flint was removed.